Driven: 2011 Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible

It seems that everything you hear about the Supersports version of the 2011 Bentley Continental convertible concerns its 198-pound weight loss and 21 additional horsepower. Let's put that in perspective: that weight loss on a 5300-pound car is, proportionally, the same as removing a bag of kitty litter from a Lotus Elise, and adding 21 horses to a team of 600 is like a Honda Civic gaining five horsepower. Is that something you'd really notice?

Yet the very reason to buy a Continental is to be noticed -- it's become the de facto voiture fabuleuse for Beverly Hills and Palm Beach nouveaux riches who on average, according to Bentley, keep their Continental show-off pieces for only eighteen months. Without an upgrade waiting in the wings, winged-B customers might flock elsewhere -- and so first we saw the Speed variant, which now accounts for almost half of Continental sales. When the eighteen-month tryst with the Speed comes to an end, a Supersports is a suitable mechanism to convince the neighbors that you're richer than ever.

For $78,900 more than the cost of a base Continental GTC convertible, you get a few things. No, not a Porsche 911 -- which would cost about the same -- but some additional air inlets in the front end and the hood to allow extra engine breathing. Twenty-inch, ten-spoke wheels are standard, and each of the rear tires sticks out an additional inch versus those in lesser Continentals. The rear fenders are flared accordingly, which, in combination with smoked trim throughout, gives this Continental a particularly sinister appearance -- one that doesn't take away from its elegant lines, though.

Inside, the Supersports features four narrow, thinly padded bucket seats. The fronts are made of carbon fiber and fitted with manual controls, something we suspect some Bentley customers haven't used in decades. How quaint. Unlike the Supersports coupe, the convertible retains its rear seats because they contain the rollover protection system. Big swathes of decorative matte carbon fiber replace the wood trim found on the dash of other Continentals, and beautiful, diamond-stitched Alcantara supplants the leather found on seating and door surfaces. The steering wheel and shifter feature a new type of leather exclusive to Bentley that looks and feels just like Alcantara but promises to be more resistant to sun damage.

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